Pheatured Scientist | 006


Phuture Dr. Jakie Picache


Uncertainty. The human condition wants to know: stories, facts, hopes. Uncertainty makes us… hesitate. Over and under analyze. Think. Pause. Breathe. Think. What do I know? What do I need to know? Pause. Think. Do I need this to survive? Or am I playing with privilege? When did one became the other?

‘Uncertainty’ has been a theme in both Jackie’s career and personal journeys.  Jackie was born in Manila, Philippines but considers Fort Lee, NJ her hometown.  Growing up as a child of immigrants, there was much to be uncertain of – whether it was her various health problems or the strains of a family of five living subsisting on a single income.  When all else seemed fickle, Jackie anchored herself in school work especially her science classes.  It was a space where things were more consistent, more certain.

Having done well in school, Jackie ventured into her first laboratory experience at Columbia University Medical Center under Dr. Wesley Grueber.  There, she investigated how phosphorylated nucleotides affect dendritic targeting in musculoskeletal tissue from 2008-2011.  From there, Jackie attended the University of Notre Dame as a first-generation student where she worked in a biochemistry lab under Dr. Holly Goodson to study how the cell cytoskeleton, particular the tubulin network, was altered in colorectal cancer cells.  During this tenure, Jackie also did clinical research on the rare disease Niemann-Pick Type C under Dr. Kasturi Haldar.  Upon graduation with a biology degree in May 2014, Jackie continued studying rare diseases during an Intramural Research Training Award Fellowship at the National Institutes of Health.  Working under Dr. Forbes D. Porter and Dr. Alfred Yergey, Jackie developed a high throughput drug screen using laser diode/thermal desorption mass spectrometry (LDTD-MS) as applied to the rare disease Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome.

Currently, Jackie is a second-year graduate student in the McLean Research group.  Her main thesis project aims to analyze the phenome, transcriptome, proteome, and metabolome of living cells (and hopefully organisms) using a device she is building that bridges a high content screening fluorescent microscope and a high-resolution mass spectrometer.  Jackie’s other endeavors include, writing new algorithms to analyze highly dimensional (4D and 5D) big data sets.

After graduate school, Jackie plans to become a PI and go back to her passion of studying rare diseases.  A big question you might have is “why chemistry?” given that most of her background is biology/biochemistry oriented.  During her time at the NIH, Jackie learned how powerful analytical chemistry technology can be in informing biological research. She also realized there could be more collaboration between the physical and life sciences because sometimes chemists and physicists get lost in the details and biologists don’t always dig far enough into the details of a research question, medical or otherwise.

When not in the lab, Jackie loves various creative outlets like painting, poetry, and cooking.  She’s also never one to turn down a hike or a good concert.